The government and the main opposition, APNU+AFC clashed on Thursday after the ruling party refused to disclose a timeline for the availability of the final investment plan for the multi-billion-dollar gas-to-shore project.
Prime Minister Mark Phillips would only say that the information will be provided in “due course”.
The Government moved to the National Assembly in December for approval for the $3.8 billion that it withdrew from the Contingency Fund to make part-payment for the construction of the Natural Gas-fired 300MW power plant and the Natural Gas Liquids (NGL) plant.
However, when called upon to provide critical information at the level of the Committee of Supply, the provision of that information was not forthcoming.
It was Opposition Member of Parliament, Ganesh Mahipaul, who had called on the Government to hand over the final investment plan for the multi-billion project, and provide a status report.
In doing so, he pointed out that in 2022, a total of $20.8B was budgeted for the project, while a total of $43.3B is expected to be expended in 2023.
But while Prime Minister Mark Phillips provided a breakdown of the sums expended thus far, he did not provide a definitive period for the provision of the investment plan to the country.
“We have paid 15% of the contract sum for the contract, and that amounted to $24.213B. As you can recall, the total sum was some US$759,882,080 and that 15% would have been US$113,982,312 and that’s how we arrived at Guyana dollars $24.213B,” the Prime Minister explained.
It was noted that an additional $400M was given to the Ministry of Public Works to compensate persons whose lands have been acquired under the Land Acquisition for Public Purposes, to pave way for the pipeline route.
“The amount of $400M represents the sum that is more than double the fair market value as determined by the chief valuation officer,” the Prime Minister added.
But when asked a second time for the investment plan to be circulated among members, Minister of Finance, Dr Ashni Singh jumped to the rescue of the Prime Minister, telling the Committee that though he cannot recall a commitment being made by the Government, it will nonetheless be happy to provide the information as ‘promised.’
But though offering a renewed ‘commitment,’ the information was not forthcoming.
Clearly dissatisfied, MP Mahipaul told the Committee that the project is of significant importance to the people of Guyana, and they should be provided with the requisite information.
“I think this project is bigger than politics,” MP Mahipaul said while imploring the Prime Minister to release the plan to offer Guyanese a better perspective of the project.
“I referenced the final investment plan Sir because it was in February of 2022 when Mr Winston Brassington said in an interview that the final investment was ready, and it is against that backdrop, in the interest of transparency and accountability sir, I am asking if, perhaps all the documents that are related to this big project that is going to utilize a substantial amount of money from the Guyanese people, if all the documents, relating to this project can be made available to the Opposition side of this house so we can have a better and clearer understanding,” the APNU+AFC MP explained.
But the Prime Minister would only say that the documents would be released in “due course.”
“I already promised the Honourable Member that in due course all the information will be available to him. Additionally in the media we had a signing ceremony and we had a press release. So, the Guyanese people are already receiving information on this project,” Prime Minister Mark Phillips said.
Adding his voice to the issue, Opposition MP Shurwayne Holder sought to ascertain from the Prime Minister, the rate at which power is expected to be sold at upon the completion of the project. In response, Prime Minister Phillips said it is public knowledge that Guyanese will see a cut in electricity cost by some 50%.
But MP Holder insisted that the rate be provided. In an almost comical manner, the Prime Minister told the Committee that in all fairness to the Opposition, he wished not to communicate “too many figures to confuse them,” and as such that information would be provided at the end of the project. According to him, the information would be provided on a need-to-know basis.
Firing back, MP Holder said the Government has a record of wasting tax payers’ money.
“Mr Chair the PPP Government has a bad track record when it comes to these types of massive project; this project is being undertaken with billions upon billions of dollars, and it is only fair that the Prime Minister can give us in this House, and give to the people of Guyana this information,” MP Holder said.
Questions regarding the unit cost of the gas to be sold, monitoring system for the project and information regarding consultants hired, if any, were met with the single response that the information would be included in the investment plan, which would be released in due course.
In addition to the US$759M contract, which was signed with CH4 Lindsayca for the construction of a gas-to-shore project at Wales, an additional $1 billion will be used to construct the pipeline. (by Svetlana Marshall)
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